With the Super Bowl in the history books, it's time to reacquaint ourselves with baseball specifically the nuances and quirks of the Atlanta Braves' 162-game schedule.
Here are 20 notable twists fromthe 2013 slate:
1. Citing last year's standings as a reference, the Braves' easiest months for 2013 theoretically shouldcome in September and April, when they play 14 and 15 games against clubs with sub-.500 records. Conversely, Atlanta's most difficult month would be May,with 13 meetings against teams with winning marks in 2012.
2. The Braveslaunch the season with a three-game set against the Phillies at Turner Field (April 1-4), with an off day on April 2 in case of inclement weather.
3. From April 8-28, the Braves will play 16 of 18 games on the road with a quick, two-game home set against the Royals sandwiched between trips to Miami, Washington, Pittsburgh, Colorado and Detroit.
4. Assuming Stephen Strasburg (15-6, 3.16 ERA, 197 strikeouts 48 walks) and Gio Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89 ERA, 207 Ks) draw starts in the Nationals' season-opening series (against the Marlins), and Washington commits to a five-man rotation in the first month, the Braves most likely will face Strasburg and Gonzalez on April 13-14 and April 30-May 1.
5. For theweek of April 28-May 4, the Braves could conceivably see Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer (Tigers), Strasburg, Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann (Nationals), Johan Santana and Matt Harvey (Mets) in a seven-day period.
6. The following week (May 5-11), Atlanta could run into another gauntlet of HarveySantana (Mets), Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey (Reds) and then Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum (Giants).
7. Times are subject to change, of course. But the Braves are slated for 11 back-to-back day games, with five at home and six on the road. Digging deeper, Atlanta won't have any back-to-back matinees during the weekdays this year. Theonly back-to-back-to-back day games occur on a weekend trip to Wrigley Field in September.
8. Speaking of the Cubs, their lone visit to Turner Fieldcomes in the season's inaugural weekend (April 5-7).
9. For the first time in 52 years, the Braves and Astros (or Colt .45s) won't face each other during the regular season. During the offseason, Houston switched to the American League West balancing out the teams (five apiece)for Major League Baseball's six divisions.
10. Because of the Astros' switch to the AL, the MLB schedule will have at least two interleague series for every week of the season. In turn, Atlanta will have at least one interleague series for April, May, June, July and August but not September.
11. The Braves have scheduled four "getaway games" for the season a Wednesday or Thursday home tilt during the day (12 noon or 1 p.m. ET), allowing the club to travel for the upcoming road trip that evening. In turn, the Nationals won't host a single 12 noon or 1 p.m. ET midweek getaway game at least one that directly precedes a road trip.
12. Atlanta's longest road trip: 10 games against the Reds, Giants and Diamondbacks (May 6-15).
12a. Most difficult road trip (on paper): At the Reds, Giants and Diamondbacks (May 6-15).
13. Longest homestand: Nine games against the Marlins, Phillies and Nationals (Aug. 9-18).
14. Shortest homestand: Two games against the Royals (April 16-17).
15. Most difficult homestand (on paper): Tie Blue Jays, Nationals and Pirates (May 29-June 5), and Brewers and Phillies (Sept. 23-29).
16. For interleague play, the Braves will face every team from the American League Central (Royals, Tigers, White Sox, Indians, Twins) and then theBlue Jays.
17. Speaking of which, for the first time since 1980 (perhaps going further back), MLB has scheduled home-and-home series featuring the same teams running back to back. From May 27-30, all 30 teams will engage in a four-game series with a singular opponent, split between two cities. The Braves and Blue Jays will partner up in this cool interleague experiment, starting in Toronto (May 27-28) and ending in Atlanta (May 29-30).
18. Atlanta has a four-pack of four-game series on the home docket Washington (April 29-May 2), New York Mets (June 17-20), Cincinnati (July 11-14) and Philadelphia (Sept. 26-29).
19. Bottom line: The Braves are one of the fortunate teams without a quirky road trip. The most "taxing" voyage entails the roadie to Pittsburgh, Colorado and Detroit one series in the Eastern Time Zone, one in the Mountain Time Zone and then back to Eastern. All in all, not too daunting.
20. On June 25 and 26, the Braves will do something that John Smoltz never experienced in 21 MLB seasons (20 with Atlanta): Play a regular-season game at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium.
Given the fact baseball has had interleague play since 1997, it's unfathomable to believe a 26-year-old Royals fan living in Missouri has never seen the Braves at hisher home ballpark.